Housing minister Yvette Cooper explained that a contest will be held to pick the best eco-town designs. "We do not want each to be the same. They should reflect local history, aspirations and character," she said.
Citizens' panels will help select the best designs early next year. Competition organisers the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment, the Prince's Foundation for the Built Environment and the Royal Institute of British Architects will run a judging panel.
The eco-towns should be free-standing settlements but with good transport links to existing communities, the government insisted.
But English Partnerships chairwoman Margaret Ford this week argued that some smaller eco-settlements could be attached to existing towns. She also confirmed that the agency will take over responsibility for eco-towns once it is merged with the Housing Corporation.
Prime minister Gordon Brown doubled the number of planned eco-towns to ten in his speech to the Labour Party conference (Planning, 28 September, p3).